Toxic policing: Is it a Black issue, or a civil rights issue?

Keeping the peace / Photo: United Nations Photo, used under Flickr Creative Commons license
Keeping the peace / Photo: United Nations Photo, used under Flickr Creative Commons license

WASHINGTON, December 11, 2014 — Are police killings of civilians a civil rights issue directly affecting all people of all races, or a “racial justice” issue?

The practice of personalizing the excessive use of force by some police officers as just a problem facing Blacks is a tactic that is not in the best interests of Blacks. It’s just another form of self-segregation.

When the media and race hustlers place Blacks in a separate category with regards to civil rights, it has an effect contrary to the one desired by most members of the Black community: equality. When brutal treatment by police is made a racially focused issue, it works against the interests of Blacks, keeping them from integrating into the overall fabric of our society.

It’s ironic that the order for increased NYPD emphasis on enforcement against unlawful selling of “looseys,” or unpackaged cigarettes, was issued by a Black law enforcement official. The New York Daily News reported that Chief of Department Philip Banks, the highest-ranking uniformed cop in the city, sent a sergeant from his office at 1 Police Plaza in July to investigate complaints of untaxed cigarettes being sold in the Tompkinsville neighborhood, a source close to the investigation told The News.

The racial focus — specifically, that these incidents demonstrate that Blacks are more affected by police acting in a rogue fashion — is a distortion of reality. Whites have been every bit as much the victims of excessive force by police as Blacks or Latinos.

In January, two ex-Fullerton Police department officers were acquitted by an Orange County, California jury in the beating death of a homeless, mentally ill man. The killing was captured on video and there was shock and outrage at the verdict with demonstrations after the killing and following the jury verdict. But Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were no-shows. The man killed was not Black.

The victim, Kelly Thomas, was White. The Hispanic police officer, one of three officers charged with Thomas’ death is heard on the audio of the killing, telling the victim, “See my fists? They’re getting ready to fuck you up.”

The victim, Kelly Thomas, is also captured on the audio. He pleads for his life and tells his assailants that he can’t breathe. It’s a not uncommon plight of those subjected to a furious attack from thugs with a badge and cop uniform.

Also heard from one of the officers that the jury in the case excused of murder charges is the boast, “I smashed his face to hell.”

Since then, a number of other notable deaths of white citizens (Dillon Taylor, Gilbert Coller) resulting from encounters with police have occurred, none garnering anything resembling the degree of media attention accorded the Michael Brown or Eric Garner events.

Some justify the racial perspective by citing the statistic that Blacks are 21 times more likely to encounter violence from police. That is an unacceptable statistic, but it doesn’t support their narrative.

The New Century Foundation studies Federal (FBI) crime reports and found significant differences in crime ratios between races, verified by the FBI’s NCVS (National Crime Victimization Survey), and the Department of Justice’s UCR – Uniform Crime Reports. Among the results of their research:

Blacks are seven times more likely than people of other races to commit murder, and eight times more likely to commit robbery.

Blacks are three times more likely to use a hand gun, and twice more likely to use a knife.

The best indicator of violent crime levels in an area is the percent of the population that is black and Hispanic.

Blacks are 39 times more likely to commit a violent crime against whites and 136 times more likely to commit a robbery.

Forty-five percent of black crime is against whites, 43 against other blacks, and 10 percent against Hispanics.

If Black leaders showed up to protest abuse of authority by police against any and all Americans without regard to their color, most of us would feel that we have a common investment in opposing toxic policing. As long as they persist in making events like the murder of Eric Garner exclusively centered around race, they will be marginalized and without allies that could bolster the progress they seek to forge.

Mixing in the extremely generalized subject of racial discrimination only serves to muddy the waters in the debate over what needs to be done to curb toxic policing.

The reality of indiscriminate police sadism is equal opportunity. A personal friend and journalist colleague, simply out on the fringes of a protest in the Washington D.C. area, wearing media credentials and conducting an interview, was attacked by multiple officers in much the same manner as Eric Garner was. My friend is white, a political centrist, and was not disobeying any police orders.

“Black Lives Matter.” Of course they do. They shouldn’t matter any more or less than Asian lives, Hispanic lives, Native American lives or white lives. The sign should read, “All Lives Matter”.

We’ve all got skin in this game.


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